What I Learned From Keeping a Reading Journal in 2021

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At the start of this year, I decided that one of the things I wanted to consistently keep up in 2021 was a reading journal. There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to start one: I felt like Goodreads and similar websites weren’t giving me the kind of outlet for expressing my thoughts about books that I wanted anymore. Those felt a little bit too socially oriented, when I wanted something more personal. I also wanted to retain more information about the books that I read, so that when I wanted to speak to someone about books or write about books, I would have an actual point of reference rather than my lofty memory. And so, I set about creating my reading journal. I got one of my notebooks collecting dust on the bookshelves, some old stickers and washi tape and began to make my first spread. There were a lot of things I learnt during this year of keeping a reading journal.

First of all, consistency. I went into my reading journal with the aim to update it a couple of times a month. I know that I’m not the kind of person who can sit down and write down their thoughts about every single book I’ve read, so I wasn’t going to try and force myself to change. I wanted the idea of writing in my reading journal to be fun – not feel like a chore. At first, I was very good at being consistent. In the early months of the year, I was obsessed with my reading journal. There was little I loved more than sitting down with my headphones in and poring over new spreads. Sometimes, the idea of writing in my reading journal was what made me excited about the idea of reading. 

But unfortunately, as the year went on and I got more and more busy, I was less enthralled with the journal. I hadn’t wanted it to be a chore, but sometimes it did feel like it. So while my January–June reading was great and filled with journaling, it swiftly began to dwindle in July. I lost steam and motivation and by November/December I was barely picking my reading journal up.

Visual aspects of journaling were also something that had a big impact. I was drawn to journaling when I had the time and motivation to doodle on my spreads, or decorate with stickers, print-outs, and washi tape. But when I had less time for those things, my motivation to journal went down. It makes sense – one of the draws of keeping a journal for me was definitely seeing how people could create these very creative journal spreads. I wanted to do that too! But as someone who isn’t particularly great at visual creativity, it took a lot more effort than I could really spare.

So, I had to sit and try and figure out how to compensate for that. The answer came in the form of digital journaling, which is what I am planning to try out next! With digital journaling, it’s easier to import things like stickers and images to spruce up your journal. It’s also easier to indulge in your creativity with your own doodles and art, because if you mess up, it’s easily removable with the click of a button.

I also found that while I loved the personal touch of a reading journal, I did sometimes miss the social aspects of websites like Goodreads, where my reviews would receive engagement from others. I had gone about trying to replace the social aspects of reading, but I realise now that that was probably a big mistake on my part. The social aspects of reading are really important to my reading life. Whether that means writing a quick review on Goodreads, sending out a tweet, or even telling a friend about what I’m reading. A reading journal definitely cannot make up for all of that…so the key is probably to try and combine all of them together.

As the end of the year approaches, I can’t say my reading journal experience went exactly as I had hoped it would be, or how I had wanted it to. But I did learn a lot about what works and doesn’t work for me. And I’m going to take everything I’ve learnt into the new year!

Want to keep your own reading journal? Here are a few reading journals to check out!

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